SIX MONTHS AGO…
Some might say I’m unethical. Maybe even depraved. But the things I’ve witnessed and the crimes committed against those I love tainted me. Provoked me. Gave birth to the anger and strength blazing through my veins.
I make no apology for it.
Leaning against the wall in the hallway outside my father’s office, I glare at the closed door. Dad is in there right now, completely oblivious to his fate.
Most men look at their fathers and feel protective. Loyal. When I look at mine, I see an unworthy creature made of frail bones and greed. An abomination I want to destroy.
I don’t just want to hurt John Holsten. I want to throw him into the ravine and dump truckloads of earth atop his broken body until his lying goddamn mouth overflows with dirt. I want to hear his pained cries while boulders rain down and crush his organs. I want to see the life drain from his deceitful eyes as the gorge swallows him whole.
This is the exact method my brother and I used last week to murder Rogan Schroeder.
The vest-pocket loan shark was the biggest threat against Conor Cassidy’s life. His network of black-market creditors loaned money to our fathers and demanded repayment with impossible interest rates.
Rogan Schroeder didn’t just want to be repaid. He wanted a piece of Julep Ranch. Specifically, the oil-rich land. My father bowed to his demands, working with him to keep the land owners, Conor and Lorne Cassidy, out of the picture while oil rigs chewed up the property.
The Cassidys will return eventually. Conor, to honor our blood oath. Lorne, when he’s released from prison. Rogan intended to have them murdered the moment they stepped foot on the ranch.
So Jake and I eliminated him.
In doing so, there will be no more contract killers. No more debts. No more threats against the girl I love like a sister.
After Jake and I deal with Dad, Conor will finally be able to live safely at the ranch. Lorne still has a few years to serve in prison, but when he’s free, we’ll be able to welcome him home with open arms.
I drum my fingers against my thigh, listening for my brother’s footsteps, so fucking ready to put this shit behind us.
A few minutes later, he rounds the corner of the hall and strides toward me with a laptop tucked under an arm.
Despite how close we are to getting Conor back, his mood hasn’t improved from the surly, miserable funk he’s been immersed in for the past five years.
Because Conor has a boyfriend. A man she now lives with on her college campus. That revelation is ripping Jake apart, day after day.
“Ready?” His whisper snags, his jaw so tight it doesn’t give.
With a nod, I step toward the office door.
We were raised under a strict code of conduct, to honor our father, his rules, and his privacy. That includes knocking before we enter his quarters.
He lost all honor the moment he put Conor and Lorne in harm’s way. Still, it goes against the grain to open that door without permission.
Jake casts me an irritated glare and swings open the door himself.
“What the—?” Behind the desk, Dad shoves his chair back and causes something to fall at his feet. His hands fly to his lap, his eyes murderous. “Get out!”
I follow Jake in, and we skid to a stop at the sight of the woman rising from the floor behind the desk.
Long black hair and beautiful Native American features, Dad’s girlfriend, Raina, hugs her nude chest.
Fucking great. I share a disgusted look with Jake.
“I said, Get out!” Dad zips his pants, his face crimson with rage and utter disbelief.
Interrupting a blow job is one thing, but we’re blatantly ignoring his booming order. He has no idea how much leverage we hold over him.
“Raina.” Jake approaches the desk without looking at the woman. “Leave us.”
I spot her shirt on the floor and toss it at her.
She catches it, keeping her tits covered with the cloak of her hair. She slips it on without a bra and looks to Dad for permission to leave.
I don’t know what her interest is in him. She’s a stunning woman. At age twenty-two, she’s a year younger than Jake and me. Way too young for a sixty-year-old man.
If she thinks he’s loaded, she’s sorely mistaken. He’s penniless, and after this meeting, he’ll be homeless. Or dead.
“Wait in my bedroom while I deal with this.” Dad waves her away.
She turns and heads out of the office, shoulders square and expression unreadable. She’s been staying at the ranch for the past month and hasn’t so much as met my eyes, let alone spoken to me. Even now, as Jake and I glare holes through her, she doesn’t look at us.
Something feels off about her. Nothing indicates she’s here against her will, but she’s not exactly warm around my father, either. Whatever it is pings at my protective instinct.